From Austria to Worcester and Back Again: Matzka's Time with the Austrian National Team
WORCESTER, Mass. – Holy Cross women’s hockey sophomore Antonia Matzka didn’t spend her winter break in traditional college student fashion: catching up on sleep, hobbies, and with friends. No, she spent it playing for the Austrian Women’s Ice Hockey National Team.
From Dec. 27 – 30, Matzka and her teammates participated in three days of camp that culminated in an exhibition against Slovakia, in which Austria claimed the victory, 8-4.
A native of Moedling, Austria, Matzka is no stranger to the international stage. She got her first taste of this level of competition as part of the U-18 Austrian team in 2012 when she was just 13 years old, before being called up to the senior national team two years later when she was 15.
“In Europe, the game is completely different,” Matzka said. “Since the sheet of ice is a lot bigger, you have more time to keep the puck, which I did a lot more while I was playing over there. That experience gave me the confidence in myself to implement some of that different style of play in my game here.”
As one half of the Crusaders’ top defensive pair, Matzka has carried her confidence over and helped to lift the entire defense. In the four games since the start of the new year, Holy Cross has allowed almost a full goal less per game than its previous average. In the squad’s two-game series against Maine last weekend, it held the Black Bears to two goals in the first game, resulting in the Crusaders’ first Hockey East tie, and kept Maine off the board entirely for two and a half periods in the second game.
This improvement on defense, has of course, been a whole team effort, but having a player with the chance to gain experience against top international competition certainly helps.
“We are very excited that Antonia was able to participate in her national team camp again this year,” Holy Cross associate head coach Katie Lachapelle said. “It is a great honor for her to be recognized at that level. Her experience and what she can bring back to our team is invaluable for our group as a whole.”
Matzka’s time in Austria this December was spent preparing for the upcoming International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Women’s World Championship. She said that Austria, who will compete in Division IA, has the goal of winning the championship to move up and join the elite tier of teams in the top division made up of 10 squads, including the United States, Canada, and Finland. The tournament will be held in Budapest, Hungary, from April 7 – 13. Austria will face off against Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Norway, and Slovakia.
The team’s performance in last year’s tournament, held in Vaujany, France in April 2018, showed signs of promise. In a strong field, the Austrians came in second place, just missing out on that top slot that was claimed by France. This year, the French are competing as one of the 10 teams in the top division after earning the right to move up.
The team’s longterm goal is to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Good showings at the World Championships will improve its world ranking and lead to an easier path to qualification. Matzka and the Austrians are currently ranked 11th in the IIHF’s world rankings, and the 2022 Games will feature the top-10 international clubs.
This season, Matzka has one goal and four assists for five points for the Crusaders. In her career on the Hill, she has posted five goals and 18 assists for 23 points. Last season, before the team’s transition to Hockey East, Matzka was named to the All-NEWHA Rookie Team.
Crusader fans can look forward to watching Matzka continue to grow on the ice, both here in Worcester and on the international stage with the Austrian National Team for the foreseeable future.
“All in all, I really appreciate having the opportunity to gain experience on the international stage in addition to playing college hockey,” Matzka said. “I love coming home to play with girls I grew up playing with in Austria and seeing how far we have come to reach the level we are able to compete at now.”